Belfast and the Causeway Coast was named the top region in the world to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet – and it's easy to see why! This region of Northern Ireland has a rich culture and history, not to mention breath-taking scenery along the coastline.
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James Smart, Lonely Planet's Destination Editor for Britain and Ireland, said: "While the value of the pound hasn't been great news for British travellers, it has been a great boost for people looking to visit the UK. Belfast & the Causeway Coast topped our list of the top ten regions because it is deservedly now recognised as a must-visit destination by travellers from across the globe.
The Northern Irish region has also enjoyed a surge in popularity thanks to its starring role as the backdrop for href="https://www.hellomagazine.com/tags/game-of-thrones/" target="_blank">Game of Thrones, with Giant's Causeway among the iconic locations seen in the drama. So get inspiration for your next trip with our round up of 10 of the top things to see and do in the region…
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this striking landscape is said to have been caused by volcanic activity some 50-60 million years ago. The causeway coast is comprised of some 40,000 black basalt columns sticking out of the sea, and has inspired legends of giants striding across the sea to Scotland – resulting in its name.
This leading tourist attraction offers visitors the opportunity to explore the shipyard, see full-scale reconstructions and uncover artefacts from the original Titanic, in the city where it all began. Visitors can also complete their Titanic Experience with a visit to SS Nomadic – RMS Titanic's original tender ship.
Belfast Harbour dates back to 1613, and serves as the main maritime hub for Northern Ireland. The area is home to Titanic Belfast, George Best Belfast City Airport and the Northern Ireland Science Park, and is undergoing a huge regeneration project to bring a number of commercial offices, shops, cafes and restaurants to the region.
Located in Northern Belfast, this castle is a must-visit during your trip to the region. Belfast Castle Estate is on the lower slopes of Cave Hill Country Park, which features an adventure playground, a visitor centre and ecotrails within its grounds. Meanwhile, within the castle itself, you can dine in the Cellar restaurant and Castle Tavern, which have seasonal and Christmas menus on offer.
Stormont Parliament Buildings:
This striking parliament building is home to the Northern Ireland Assembly and was designed by architect by Sir Arnold Thornely, who incorporated perfect symmetry and symbolism into his design. Visitors can take a free tour of the parliament building, exploring the Great Hall, the Senate Chamber and Assembly Chamber from Monday to Friday.
Belfast Botanic Gardens:
The Botanic Gardens and Palm House have been a popular spot for locals since 1895, and includes extensive rose gardens along with a cool wing, a palm house and tropical ravine, where plants from sunnier climes can thrive. Visitors can explore the gardens and bowling green, while little ones will love the children's playground.
Dark Hedges Road:
Famed for being one of the iconic filming locations from Game of Thrones, Dark Hedges Road is now a popular spot for fans of the HBO show. Arrive early if you can to beat the crowds and get a snap of the beautiful tree-lined road without anyone to ruin your shot.
The Gobbins Cliff Path:
Get a spectacular (and a little scary) view of the Northern Ireland coastline with a guided walk along The Gobbins Cliff Path. Hailed as 'the most dramatic walk in Europe', this path takes visitors on a 2.5 hour fully guided walking tour along a narrow path along the dramatic cliff face, with the waves crashing beneath you.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge:
If The Gobbins Cliff Path walk didn't satisfy your quest for adventure, pay a visit to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, where brave visitors can walk across a unique rope bridge strung between the coastline and Carrick-a-Rede Island, where fisherman go to catch migrating salmon.